I’ve gotten behind at doing exactly this, so as a break I thought I’d share it, since I’m the person I know who does this. It really is helpful and ends up saving time (I learned this the hard way last fall) to index your research in excel.

What on earth am I talking about?

Well, when I’ve got more than 3 or 4 books involved in a project, I tend to forget where I read things. Sometimes I need a specific fact that’s only in one place and I cannot for the life of me find it. Making an index solves this problem and has other benefits. For instance, it can help you track the frequency of certain topics.

It’s not difficult, as long as you don’t get too far behind. What I’m doing right now, because I’m using a lot of different sources is this:

  1. While reading, take notes. I include page numbers and quotations to make citation easier.
  2. Soon thereafter, if not before, decide what the important topics are, what things are likely to come up in other sources, whatever you think you’ll want to be able to find again. List these in the first column of an excel spreadsheet.
  3. Each source you are using gets a column to the right of the topics column.
  4. Simply note the relevant page numbers in the box which corresponds to topic and source.
  5. Alphabetize your topics (sort ascending)!

    I’ve actually made several of these so far. This is the index of sources on Italy in general and Pompeii in particular. I also have one for Britain (Silchester) and my Bibliography. The best part is that you can continue to add topics and sources and both reorganize and use the index easily.